In the latest issue of Modern Reformation, I have an article on “The Gospel according to Joshua” (which subscribers can read here).

In the closing section, I look at why the physical-spiritual contrast is a true but inadequate way to compare the work of Joshua and Jesus (who share the same name).

Some interpreters look at Joshua and Jesus through the contrast of physical fulfillment and spiritual fulfillment.

Joshua, they note, is promised covenant prosperity: protection from God’s enemies and success in all his endeavors (Josh. 1:5-8). Jesus, however, gives up physical comfort and protection in order to serve as our final sacrifice.

Joshua leads the conquest of a physical land through physical war; Jesus rules a spiritual kingdom where we fight with spiritual weapons as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet. 1:21).

This observation is true, so far as it goes.

It helps us to remember that in this world we are not promised physical safety or success.

It reinforces the crucial truth that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

But the physical-spiritual contrast is ultimately inadequate.

We must remember that the story is not finished.

There is another act to come in this divine drama.

Christ will return and he will physically (as well as spiritually) defeat all of his enemies once and for all. “Unlike the wars of old that led only to more bloodshed and misery, Christ’s global judgment and victory when he comes again will truly be the war to end all wars (Matt. 3:11-12; 24:27-25:46; Rev. 17:1-20:15).”*

We will enter into the Promised Land, which is no longer restricted to a strip of land in the Middle East but is now expanded to include the whole earth (cf. Matt. 5:5; Rom. 4:13).

Christ himself will wipe every tear from the eyes of our new resurrection bodies as we live securely in his presence forevermore (Rev. 21:4).

One greater than Joshua has appeared and will one day return again.

And on that day, all will see that the battle truly does belong to the Lord.

[* Michael Horton, “Notes on Joshua,” ESV Gospel Transformation Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).]

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3 thoughts on “The Gospel According to Joshua”

  1. Jeff Downs says:

    Interesting (to say the least) sentence found in the latest edition of Modern Reformation “While we acknowledge that the stories in the book of Joshua depict apparently historical people and places, we must resist the pressure to ‘get behind’ the biblical text and reconstruct the historical details of biblical events” – Rachel Billings. What does she mean by “apparently”?
    Modern Reformation, Vol. 23, No. 1 (January-February 2014)

  2. anaquaduck says:

    Israel under Joshua still had spiritual battles as they were instructed to live by faith,in this sense we still identify with the same struggle in the OT church.

    But as you say the NT church is still marching on although she too has tasted freedom from slavery through the pouring out of the Spirit.The best is yet to come as fulfillment amplifies & the end of this earths history is brought to an awesome finality.

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    The sufferings of Jesus were as great as His reward. Hebrews 12:2. Christians are promised physical prosperity too…they inherit the earth, every element will be glorified on the coming day of final victory.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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